Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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How Much A University Sessional Instructor Gets Paid vs. How Much They Work

As you may recall from all my complaining about how busy I was last semester, I was teaching a new (to me) university course. Teaching a course that you’ve never taught before is an *insane* amount of work, because you have to:

  • develop the course itself – what are the learning objectives? what’s the scope of the material you will cover?
  • create the assignments
  • create grading rubrics so you know how you will grade the assignments and can share that with your students1
  • create your lecture notes
  • create the slides to go with your lecture notes
  • create in-class activities to make the learning more active

And that’s all (ideally) before classes even start2! Once classes start you do things like:

  • teach your class (for 3 hours per week in this case)
  • mark all the assignments3
  • tweak lecture material4
  • arrange some guest speakers on a topic of interest to the class5
  • hold office hours to answer students’ questions6

Because I’m a nerd – and also a bit of a glutton for punishment – I decided to see just how much work it was to teach this course that I’d never taught before. I tracked my hours using Time Edition, just like I did for the hours I spent working on my MBA.

Here’s how much time I spent on the course:

Activity Time Spent (in hours)
Teaching in class 36.0
Planning (creating syllabus, developing assignments & rubrics, developing lecture materials, etc.) 116.9
Communicating with Students (email, office hours) 7.9
Marking 33.6
Total 192.4

That work was happened between the end of June 2015, when I was offered the sessional instructor position to teach the class, until early December 2015, when I finished marking the student’s final assignments. Here’s what the break down of hours looked like by month:

Hours spent teaching a new course


As a sessional instructor, I’m not actually paid until the course starts7. And even then I’m only paid, in this case, for 5.5 hours per week8. The semester is 13 weeks long, which means that I was paid for 71.5 hours, when I actually worked 192.4 hours. Put another way, I worked 122.9 unpaid hours or nearly 4x more hours than I was paid for.

Now, I went into the course knowing that I’d end up doing a lot more work than I’d be paid for, but it’s a little bit shocking to see just how much that ended up being.

  1. I made a mistake this past semester where I put the grading rubric on the end of the Word document that contained the assignment instructions, but when I pdf’d the file, it cut off the rubric (it seems that because the rubric were on pages in landscape instead of portrait orientation, the program I was using decided to not include it in the pdf), so the students didn’t actually get to see the rubric before they handed in the first assignment! Lesson learned for me – always check the whole file after you pdf something! []
  2. I say “ideally” because I didn’t have all my lecture materials created before the course started. This meant I was creating some of my lecture material during the semester, while I was teaching. I knew what I was going to cover before classes started, but hadn’t written it all up as lecture notes or made all my slides []
  3. Unless you have a teaching assistant. Which I did not. []
  4. for example, if something exciting happens in the news related to your topic that you want to share with the class, or you happen to read something new related to your topic, or students ask you some really excellent questions one week and you do some research to provide them with answers the next week []
  5. In my case, my students had lots of great questions about being an external evaluator, but since I’ve only ever been an internal evaluator, I decided to bring in a few people I know who work as external evaluators as they could give much better answers to those questions than I could. []
  6. In my case, I arranged to meet some students via Skype like a sort of “virtual” office hour, since I was only ever on campus for class. []
  7. In fact, I had to go through a lot of hoop jumping just to get access to the library in order to do my unpaid preparatory work – when I went to the library they told me that I’m not an instructor until the course starts and looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested that I needed to plan my course before the first day of classes. []
  8. 3 hours of teaching and 2.5 hours of work outside the classroom – preparation, office hours, emailing with students, marking, etc. []


Omg, this looks like fun

Apparently there’s a blizzard going on out east. And these people figured out the best way to take advantage of it!


I went for a float and it wasn’t of the root beer variety

I-sopod Flotation Tank.jpg

This isn’t the tank that I floated in, but I forgot to take a photo of it when I was there, so I got this picture from Wikipedia to give you the general idea.

My friend Alicia took me for a float for my birthday. For the uninitiated, a float (a.k.a., floatation therapy or sensory deprivation tank) is where you get into a big tank with water that has about 1000 lbs of Epsom salt in it so that you can lie in and, as the name suggests, float. You wear earplugs and you close the lid of the tank so that it’s pitch black. The water and the air are skin temperature, so the idea is that you don’t feel anything. And you just float there – ideally clearing your mind of any thoughts – for 90 minutes. It’s supposed to help you relax and is supposed to be good for stress relief, reducing muscle tension, and all sorts of other things1.

My experience

When we got to the float place, they had me watch a little video on what you need to do. You have to take a shower to make sure you won’t get anything icky in the tank (like hair gel or makeup), then you put in the earplugs, and make sure your face is completely dry. You have to be careful not to get any of the tank water in your eyes because there’s 1000 lbs of Epsom salt in there and omg, that would sting like hell. Then you get in the tank, close the lid, and float! They suggested that you could try different postures – like arms down at your sides, arms up above your head – and that while you didn’t have to worry about your head sinking because of all that Epsom salt in the water, there was a pool noodle that you could put under your neck if it made you feel more comfortable.

When I first stepped in the tank, and before I closed the lid, the thought that sprung into my mind was “This would be a perfect setting for a death in the next Final Destination movie!” But then I thought that visions of the tank rapidly filling up while I panickedly scratched at the door which would inexplicably not open – all with my eyes stinging like a mofo – wouldn’t really lend itself to relaxation, so I dropped the thought.

The actual floating experience was quite interesting. It felt like I was floating in zero gravity (or what I imagine that would feel like, since I’ve never actually floated in zero gravity) and at one point when I tried putting my hands under my head, it actually felt like I was tumbling head over heels2!

Somehow, the time in the tank felt both long and short. My mind was flipping around from thinking about one random thing to another, so I tried using my mindfulness training, which seemed like a logical thing to do on such an occasion. I found that focusing on my breathing was the most effective way to help me clear my mind of thoughts. In the end, I think I fell asleep, as I remember thinking about something and then the next thing I knew it felt like time had passed and I was hearing the music that they play to inform you that your time is up.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience. I mean, I won’t be getting a membership and going on a regular basis or anything – I think I get better meditation through running and massage is still my preferred method of working out muscle tension – but I’d probably go back for another float again.

Image Credit:

I-sopod Flotation Tank” by FloatguruOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.


  1. According to the Wikipedia page – the neutrality of which is disputed because it totally sounds like someone who runs a float tank shop wrote it – research has shown that it also helps improve creativity and performance in a variety of sports. []
  2. Even though I knew I wasn’t because (a) physics, and (b) my face would have gotten wet and I could feel that it wasn’t! []


Happy Cativersary, Watson & Crick!

Two years ago today, I picked up two little kitties, then named Simon & Blue but whom I immediately re-branded as Watson & Crick, from the foster home in which they had been living for the past five months, and brought them home. They eagerly jumped into my cat carriers as if they were just delighted that I was to be their new cat mom, but on the long car ride there were some sad little kitty cries that made me think “Omg, I hope they are going to be happy in my home!” They were very curious when they got to my place, checking out the entire apartment and then settling in quite nicely1. And in the last two years, they’ve just gotten more and more comfy in our2 home, and gotten more and more affectionate.

They have each established their own little rituals and favourite places. Crick loves to nap on my kitchen chairs when the chairs are pushed under the table3 and at night when I got to bed she comes with me to do a little kneading and then curls up either on my right side all cuddled up with me or on the pillow next to me. Watson likes to get his evening exercise by bursting, out of nowhere into a run down the hall and parkours off the front door, lands, and then just walks away like nothing happened. He likes to sleep at the foot of the bed, and that is in keeping with his general philosophy of wanting to be near you, but not necessarily touching you. This philosophy is a bit at odds with his desire to be petted, and this contradiction manifests itself with his tendency to sit on the floor just out of arm’s reach when I’m sitting on the couch, but then meowing and meowing until I pet him. He also enjoys watching me get ready for work in the morning, during which time he also meows until he gets petted. Both of the cats coming running to greet me at the door when I come home from work and they run into the kitchen when they hear me making tea and give me puppy dog eyes, because they know that I’ll give them treats4. The most exciting thing for them, however, is when there is a pigeon – or pigeons – on the neighbours balcony.

Cats watching pigeons on the neighbour's balcony

Watching an exciting episode of Pigeon TV.

As I’ve mentioned before, Watson really like eating cucumber. After much trying5, I *finally* caught it on camera.

Also caught on camera was Crick opening a cupboard door:

In honour of today’s cativersary, I bought a giant cat tree, which the kitties absolutely love. In fact, as soon as I took the pieces out of the box to start assembling them, they climbed right into it!

Kitties got a new climbing tree

I assembled it, which was reasonably easy despite requiring a bit of moving of cats off of the next piece that I wanted to add to the structure. And then once it was all done, the kitties were able enjoy climbing around on its various levels and playing with the attached fluffy toy.

New cat tree

In conclusion, my cats are the softest, sweetest, funniest, bestest cats in the whole universe and I made an excellent choice when I bought their lives.

Watson on the bed


I love you, my crazy little muffins!

  1. Though Watson was a bit of scaredy cat at first, preferring to sit on the window ledge behind the couch, but that only lasted for that first day. []
  2. I say “our” because they are totally the bosses of me and this place is theirs! []
  3. She probably feels safer because Watson can’t attack her when she’s there. []
  4. They have trained me well. []
  5. Because usually when the cats are doing sometime adorable and I get my camera out to try to capture said adorableness, they immediately cease doing whatever the adorable thing was. []


Birthday Report

So I had a birthday. Apparently my cats knew it was my birthday, because they gave me a present: one of their toys was in the bag that I take to work when I got up on Monday morning. So thoughtful of them.

Kitties gave me this present for my birthday

At work, some of my coworkers took me out for lunch, which was very sweet of them! And that night a group of friends took me out for dinner to El Santo, a new Mexican restaurant in New West that everyone has been raving about. I completely forgot to get a photo of all of us at dinner, because I’m old and senile. But I did manage to get a shot of me with my birthday dessert – Potted Tres Leches – which the restaurant gave to me for free, what with it being my birthday and all. It was delicious!

Birthday dessert at El Santo

The next day I received a hard copy of the latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, in which I have an article!

Hard copy of a journal article that I wrote

Then I didn’t really do anything birthday-related until Saturday, when I had my birthday party, by which point I’d kind of forgotten that it was even for my birthday, which seemed like eons ago. Before the party I told myself “I’m totally going to remember to take photos, because I never take photos when I have a party and I totally should.” And then I took zero photos. Cath took a photo of Watson smelling her sock, because he was smelling her sock for like 5 minutes1, but as far as I know that is the only photographic evidence of the event. I suppose this is actually a sign of a good party, as I was too busy actually chatting with all my guests2 to think about photography. Anyway, the Coles notes version of the party is that I had a blast – my friends are awesome and my cats were very entertaining – despite not going onto the very top platform of their new cat tree despite everyone’s attempts to get them to do so. Thanks to everyone who came, thanks for all the lovely gifts (which you totally didn’t need to bring), and special thanks to Michelle for making a delicious salted caramel chocolate cake and to my sister for sending an edible fruit arrangement3

I would also like to point out that since 2016 is a leap year, I get to have a whole extra day before I turn the big 4-0. I think this was an excellent choice on my part.

  1. Cath has two cats, so I’m betting Watson was picking up Google and Saba’s scent. []
  2. As well as mixing the occasional drink and putting out the way too much food that I made. []
  3. And she wasn’t even able to come to the party! []


Happy Bethmas Eve!

Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Bethmas weekend, yet here it is 365 days since the last Bethmas Eve! Since Bethmas falls on Monday this year, I’ve decided to extend Bethmas celebrations for the whole week as having my birthday party before my birthday seemed too early in January. Celebrations start with a birthday lunch with coworkers1 and then dinner with some friends at New West’s hot new restaurant on my actual birthday and culminating with a Bethmas party next Saturday2.

As for Bethmas Eve, it’s pretty low-key. This morning I’ve been doing such exciting things as checking in on the discussions in the online course I’m teaching, doing laundry, and finally taking down my Christmas tree. Though I do have a hockey game later, so the plan is to finish up all this being-a-responsible-adult stuff before then and officially kick off Bethmas Eve with hockey! w00t!

  1. Which was actually set up by my Business Analyst who, have I mentioned, is super awesome? []
  2. Actually, those are all the things. There’s nothing birthday-related between those two days. []


Slaying the Sloth

Sloth Beth

This is a picture of me after No-running-vember and Sloth-cember.

While I exceeded my 2015 goal of running 800 km by 34.7 km, I did it despite barely running in November and not running at all in December!

Running Jul-Dec 2015

As much as I enjoy running, I felt like I needed a little bit of a break from it. I’d been doing it with only one little break since mid-2013, as you can see from this graph:

Running 2010-2015

I trained for the Edge-to-Edge half marathon, which I ran in June 2013, followed by training for the Fall Classic in November 2013, which lead directly into the running study that I took part in that kept me running until January 2014, at which time I immediately rolled into training for the Hollywood half marathon in April 2014, which lead directly into training for the Scotiabank half marathon in June 2014, and then I trained for two 10 km races in fall 2014. I took a short break in Nov & Dec 2014 (much like I did in Nov & Dec 2015), and then started training in earnest for the 2015 BMO half marathon, followed immediately by training for the Montreal demi-marathon in Sept 2015, then a 10 km race in Oct. Even just typing that all out made me tired – no wonder I felt like I needed a break!

Now, however, I think it’s time to get back into the running habit. I really do enjoy it and as the days are starting to get longer – and we have even had some days without rain, I’m craving the feeling of giving my running muscles a good workout! I’m all signed up for the BMO marathon relay, which is also providing with some motivation.

Tomorrow promises to be sunny, albeit chilly, and I think it will be a good day to start my 2016 running season! I’m sure that I’ll be much slower and the run will be much harder than I’m used to (since fitness  starts deteriorating pretty quickly once you go sloth, but experience has shown me that after a couple of runs, they’ll start to feel much better!)

I have slayed Sloth Beth before and I can do it again.


Adorable Things My Nephew Said

On my trip to visit my family for the holidays, I had the great pleasure of getting to spend lots of time with my niblings. And I want to capture some of the adorable things my nephew Thomas, who is 4, said while I was there. My blog has several funny comments from my niece when she was little too and I love when I look back at them and remember how hilarious she was (She’s still hilarious, but in a much more sophisticated way now, at age 11), so I want to capture some of Thomas’s hilarious comments so I can look back on them when he is older.

The thing I heard Thomas say more than anything else on this trip was “I think…” and “I’m not sure or not.” It’s like he never wants to commit to anything he’s saying. [Insert sexist joke about men never wanting to commit here]. A question like “Thomas, did you like your breakfast?” would be met with “I’m not sure or not”. But so would a question like “Are you wearing a blue shirt?”, which he could totally just look at and be sure.

Oddly, another thing he said a lot was very definitive: “Of course, I’m am!”

On Christmas Eve, he and I were sleeping in the attic, which has a skylight. He looked up through the skylight and declared, “I can see Santa!” So I said, “Oh no! Santa won’t come to the house because he can see that you are awake.” So he closes his eyes and says, “Now he’ll think I’m sleeping!”

He also has a few cute mispronunciations, like “Rice Creepies” instead of “Rice Krispies”, “Mickeldonald’s” instead of “McDonald’s”, and best of all, he refers to the superhero “Hawkeye” as “Hot Guy”.

We all went to the wedding of my sister’s best friend on New Year’s Eve, which was held in a deconsecrated church. All the stuff of the church is still in place, including a large statue of Jesus on a cross. Thomas saw this and declared, “Oh no! A zombie!”1

  1. My sister explained that it wasn’t actually a zombie, it was a guy named Jesus and the story goes that a bunch of people didn’t like what he was saying, so they killed him. Thomas had *a lot* of questions about this, so he was directed to my friend Sarah for further explanation. Apparently there was an Ironman analogy involved. []


Back to Reality

Done a bunch of laundry, including folding it1

Picked out my outfits for the week2.

Made my lunch for tomorrow.

Set up my coffee maker for the morning.

Packed my work bag.

Set my alarms3

Played with my kitties.

That last one isn’t about going back to work after the holidays, but it sure is fun 🙂


  1. Which is an extremely rare occurrence for me! []
  2. Something I haven’t done in *ages* but which, when I do it, I find makes my mornings so. much. smoother. []
  3. I need multiple alarms. First the radio comes on, and then the loud and annoying beeping, in case the radio instead enough to get me up. And yes, I use an alarm clock, like in the old timey days. []


Goals for 2016

Unlike last year, when I’d been working on my goal list for a month and a half at this point, this year I starting working on this list on today (Dec 31!). I mean, I’ve had some thoughts about it during the year, but they’ve been fleeting thoughts here and there, not a real list. I decided to structure it off of last year’s list and see what I come up with!


  1. Run a sub-1:50 half marathon. I’ve been aiming for a sub-2 hr half marathon for quite some time now and last year I was close twice, but not quite close enough. So I think that aiming for 2 hours isn’t leaving me enough breathing room – any little thing1 can make me miss the 2 hour mark. If I’m training for sub-1:50 and I miss it by a few minutes, I’ll still get the elusive sub-2 hour race accomplished.
  2. Run/bike/swim 1000 km. I ran 800 km in 2015, which involved solid training for two half marathons. I’m not 100% sure of what races I’m going to do this year, but see my next goal for why I’ve decided to including biking and swimming along with running!
  3. Run a triathlon. I’ve been wanting to do one of these for years and I think I just need to bite the bullet and sign up for one. Signing up for races is always the best motivation for me to get training!
  4. Add 6 new medals to my collection. I got 5 this year, so let’s up it to 6 for next year. Race medal inflation should help!
  5. Complete the 100 push up challenge. Didn’t do this one in 2015, so I’m adding it to the 2016 list!
  6. Bring lunch to work 75% of the time. In 2015 I only did just over 50%, but I think I can do better!
  7. Lose those last 5 lbs that I gained during my MBA. Maybe triathlon training and significantly more homemade lunches will help?


  1. Pay off 16% of my mortgage principal. Seems like a good goal for 2016. Also, I should probably clarify I mean my original principal, not my remaining principal. Last year those were pretty much one and the same, as I only bought my condo half way through 2014 so hadn’t paid off a tonne by the start of 2015, but since I paid off a lot in 2015, this year the distinction is required.


  1. Submit at least one article for publication. It takes a long time to get through the whole publication process, and since I have nothing currently in the pipeline, it’s probably not reasonable to have something published by this time next year. But I can certainly get something submitted!
  2. Complete 16 items from my 101 list. I did 15 this year, which means there are fewer easy ones left on the list to choose from, so this might be a challenge. Challenge accepted!
  3. Paint a room. I want my bedroom to be a different colour than it currently is. Is anyone good at painting and wants to help me?
  4. Get screeched in. I’m planning to go to Newfoundland for a conference in June and since it is the last of the 10 provinces that I need to go to complete my quest to go to all of the provinces2, it seems like a screeching in ceremony is in order!
  5. Make 16 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before.
  6. Write 116 blog postings.

So there are my 16 goals for 2016!

  1. Like my GPS watch being less than perfect a la BMO Vancouver or a long wait on a freezing bridge before the race causing a need for a pee break a la Montreal. []
  2. The bigger quest is to go to all of the provinces and the territories, so I have my sights set on the Yukon and Nunavut too! []